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When the Constitution for the United States of America was written, the preamble began with the words “We the People. . . ” In reality, these three words included a small percentage of the population: white men who owned property. Throughout this new experiment in representative government, many others would argue that they should also be included in “We the People.”

Paths to Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Power of the President, invites students to explore notions of slavery and freedom, and to trace President Abraham Lincoln’s steps as he considered emancipation and its alternatives. While participating in a costumed reenactment, students recreate the events surrounding the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Each student researches and acts the part of an historic character from the 1860s. In conclusion to the program, each class receives a DVD of their filmed production.

During the program students will also tour the Slave Quarters of Decatur House, the last example of a Slave Quarters in the White House Neighborhood.

Program Objectives:

After completing the “Paths to Freedom” program, students will be better able to:

  • Identify and explain events leading up to the Civil War
  • Compare the North and South in terms of economy, population, and perspectives
  • Explain the impact (cause/ effect) of legislation leading up to the Civil War on different populations (free, enslaved, north, south)
  • Describe how President Lincoln came to his decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Compare multiple perspectives on slavery and emancipation

Program Logistics:

  • Takes place at the historic Decatur House, located at 1610 H Street NW
  • Free of charge
  • 2.5-3 hour experience